Book Review: The Guild Leader’s Handbook

Book Review: The Guild Leader’s Handbook

There is a book for everything it seems. Some will tell you how to hack an iPhone, others will tell you how to cook rare and exotic treats. In the gaming world there has been everything from strategy and content guides to art books and everything in between.

A few weeks ago a new book hit the stands, The Guild Leader’s Handbook by Scott F. Andrews. Scott is not only an accomplished and long time  guild leader in World of Warcraft, but also the author of “Officers’ Quarters” on wow.com. His book takes a look at what it is to run a guild in today’s modern MMOs and offers readers both looking to start a guild and those who have been at it a while, a cornucopia of information from his collected experiences. Today I’d like to share my thoughts on the book with you.

Before we begin I’d like to make a few things clear. Firstly, Yes I do write for wow.com as one of the class columnists. This does not mean however that I will be unfairly biased towards the book. I have had little to no interaction with Scott and anyone who knows me or has listened to my podcast knows that I do not temper my criticism and critiques based on acquaintances or tangential relations. In short, friend or foe I try to tell it exactly as it is and as unbiased as possible. In mathematical terms we would call this “Correlation does not imply causation”. Secondly, while I myself am not currently a Guild Leader in WoW, I have lead numerous successful guilds, super-groups, and various other groupings in many other games. I am however still the Healing Lead and one of the raid officers for the guild I call home, and thus in a leadership position within the structure.

The first thing I noticed when opening this book, is the level of accessibility. It was very well written and very easy not only to read but digest. The concepts and ideas in the book are thoughtfully laid out and the way the topics are grouped not only make sense logically, but allow the material to be more easily digested. Potentially confusing concepts are quickly explained, often times with a real life scenario that the author has experienced himself. The second thing I noticed while reading this book is the confirmation of the author’s depth of experience. The familiarity he writes about the topics is comforting and also conveys a sense of certainty that is easily lost when writing something of this nature.

The book itself covers many topics such as;

  • Forming a guild and making it successful
  • Choosing a guild size and focus
  • Dealing with guild drama
  • Differences between leading a guild and leading a raid
  • Loot distribution
  • Alternate styles of guilds (PvP, RP)
  • Choosing officers
  • Guild Morale
  • Planning for the long term
  • Dealing with Real Life

Seems like a lot to cover in such a small book doesn’t it? It is, but the author cuts out most of the unnecessary and leaves in the most relevant information to the topic. Each topic is subdivided and dives into specifics and does so with the perfect amount of detail.

There were a few pieces that really stood out to me while reading this. First was the section on forming a guild. Beyond setting a size and focus for your guild, the author talked about a topic that I think deserves some attention. Forming a guild identity and presence. For any established guild or group, their name and longevity carry a certain weight to them. If you think about any guilds, corps or fellowships you may have come across, I’m certain you can find at least one where their name is well known. For a new guild starting out it can be hard to forge an identity and establish a presence. The author offers some solid advice for creating a server presence. This ranges from specializing and becoming rock solid at a particular goal, having a history of cooperation with other people and guilds to having fun contests and events. One example that I found particularly enjoyable was the idea of taking a completely meaningless piece of land in the game and claiming it as your own, while challenging anyone to take it from you and doing anything you can to hold on to it. That would certain generate some notice, and could be a particularly fun event.

Next was explaining the differences between leading a guild, and leading a raid. The distinction is one that sometimes goes unnoticed. A lot of players seem to feel the two are always synonymous. The author explains the characteristics of a guild leader very well and talks about the shift in personae needed to lead a raid. The two can often times be polar opposites of each other. A guild leader is at the end of the night the ultimate authority of a guild. They can control who becomes officers, who is kicked or invited and tend to be looked upon as the arbiters for any guild disputes. Compassion, openness, friendliness and approachability all play very well to a guild leaders station. A raid leader has to evaluate performances constantly while keeping the group focused. They have to play the role of team captain, coach and player all at the same time. Leading by example, but also calling out problems and fixing issues as quickly as possible. This can sometimes involve not being very nice and squishy in your assessments. I was quite pleased to read this section here and it would be something I encourage not only people in leadership roles to read, but also those in a raider position. It is very much like being friends with your boss outside of work. When you’re at work you still need to work, and it’s your bosses job to keep you focused.

Another part that particularly stuck out to me was the section detailing real life interactions and issues. Even though this is a game, it is a social network. You are interacting with other players regularly, and you are devoting time out of real life to play this game with other people. As a result real life will always impact a gamers life and a game may affect the life of those that play it. This section of the book covers topics like dealing with addictions (both substance and potential video game addiction), Depression and mental illness, sexual predators, relationship problems, family problems, burnout and criminal confessions. These are real life topics that can and do affect people who play MMOs. This section offers advice to deal with these situations as they arise. Let’s not forget it wasn’t so long ago that a criminal was tracked down through WoW by law enforcement.

This section also talks about planning real life meet-ups. Investing as much time as you do in a guild there may come a time where you want to meet the people behind the avatars face to face. It sometimes requires a lot of planning, but can indeed be exceptionally rewarding.

So in the end what does this book really have to offer?

For the new guild leader or leadership role

A plethora of information that is neatly gathered in one place for you. There is a lot that goes into forming and running a guild. This book takes the information and neatly bundles it for you for easy consumption. The information contained in the book is very accurate, and is very universal in it’s approach. The advice offered is solid, well thought out and has been tried and tested by the author himself. The book may have items you never thought to consider, or just did not occur to you. It offers a new officer or guild leader a chance to be prepared and also educates you on exactly what you can expect. Everything from personalities in the guild and group dynamics to planning for the future and longevity of your guild. All the basics you could possibly need to know are detailed here for you.

For the old-hand

Even if you have been playing MMOs for a long time and are quite experienced at leading groups, running guilds and leading raids, this book will offer something that can often times be lost over time. Perspective. We fill these rolls for so long that things become second nature to us. Like everything sometimes it’s nice to have a refresher. No one is perfect 100% of the time, we all make mistakes or forget things. The way I view it is like this. Next to my computer I have a series of books for programming, APA style and formatting guides, marketing and business books and a variety of other reference material. No matter how long I’ve been doing something, there will be things that I will forget. Having these books handy gives me a reference. somewhere I can go to clarify questions and vague points or remind myself of things I may have forgotten. This book now has a permanent place on that shelf. For us old hands this book is a perfect reference to when we need to get back down to basics.

For the non leader

Even if you are not in a leadership role this book can offer you a great insight you might not have otherwise. Ever wonder why your guild leader made a particular decision but don’t really want to ask them? How about when a raid leader does something that you’re not quite sure of? This book will give you a basic understanding of what it is your guild’s leadership has to go through and constantly juggle to make sure the group remains stable and that you have a place you can unwind and have fun.

I applaud the author for this book. I found it easily accessible, accurate and a fantastic read. I was able to identify with the examples he presented right away and could have compared them to any number of stories from my own past in gaming. This book is a great starting point for anyone looking for form a guild, new to an officer position or for those who just want to understand what happens behind the scenes of their groups. On a personal level, reading this book allowed me to catch something happening in my very own guild that I almost missed simply by reading about it and being reminded of it.

The only criticism of it I have is that I feel it could have been longer.  Some of the sections could have been more fully explored and may have benefited from having a little more room to breathe. The book ends at a surprisingly short186 pages.

I feel it is well written, logically put together and is a must read for anyone seriously involved in MMOs and guild structure. Even with consideration of the length I feel that is well worth the money, and even more worth the time you would invest reading it.

The book retails for $24.95 us ($31.95 CDN) and can be purchased directly through the publisher’s website.

If you’ve read it and would like to share your thoughts on it we’d love to hear your opinion on it.

 

Matt on Massively

Darren, that community PR guy for My Game Mug managed to rope me in a quick interview. It’s the same group that’s developed WoW Headhunter. Be careful! That guy’s as sly as a Rogue. The interview on Massively involved both myself and Kree. We both chatted with Darren about what we looked for in candidates as guild leaders, recommendations for what new applicants can do and how important personality is.

And then there’s the shameless praising of WoW Headhunter (naturally).

Some quips:

What are the top 3 things that you as a guild leaders look for in order to recruit the best candidates for your guild? (Answered by Matt)

Attendance – Are the people we are recruiting going to be able to make the majority of the raids? While it’d be awesome to pickup a really good player, if he or she can only do 1 or 2 raids per month, they’re kind of useless to me and the rest of the guild since they’re never actually there.

Knowledge – Often times, knowledge translates to in-game skill. I need to know how you play your role with your given class and spec, things like, when do you end up using your spells and if you use them in the most opportune times.

Personality and Attitude – WoW has a lot of challenges. We’re going to try and accomplish big things and that’ll lead to wiping over and over again. We need candidates that are going to tough it out and make their sacrifices. They have to have the right attitude and personality to want to get better and to help their guild out. They need to be able to stick with it even when times are bad.

What is your recommendation with what candidates should put in their application when applying to your guild? (Answered by Kree)

Originality. The application has to stand out, just like a resume. If it’s too-safe or boring, it’s difficult to stand out from everyone else. Let your personality out in the application.
Also, read the question completely! I asked a question about how people plan on utilizing dual spec and one of the responses I received was, "Maybe". This doesn’t even make any sense! It shows that the person didn’t really read through the application.

Check out the full interview!

10+3 Personalities Every Guild Leader Needs Around

Personalities every Guild leader needs

Not every Guildmaster feels this way, but I’m willing to bet many of them do.

Face it.

It’s lonely at the top.

You are at the top of the food chain and there is no one for you to turn to for help. Everyone comes to you for advice or guidance about what to do next. On some days, it can be the most frustrating job in the world. But it’s reassuring to know that you are not alone.

While not every Guild has every one of these, I’m willing to bet they have some of them. They can help take the load off of a GM’s shoulders. They do not have to be officers or anything in the Guild, but that decision is ultimately yours.

The Rich Guy

The Rich Guy

Whether or not he gets his money legally or illegally, it’s nice to have a guy like this around. He’s got more gold then he knows what to do with. He’s got 3 epic mounts. Per alt. He’s a shrewd businessman and farmer where money is not a problem at all.

Why he’s an asset: If someone’s repair bill is too high, he can help spot it. He usually comes to raids packed with every reagent, flask, and potion made. Useful to have around in case that idiot Priest (namely, me) forgot his Flask of Mighty Restoration again.

Just because he’s rich doesn’t mean he’s generous. Ask nicely.

The IT Specialist

The IT Specialist

He works at a web hosting firm in silicon valley. Or maybe he’s a QA tester at Microsoft. Whatever he does, it’s nice to have the IT specialist around. They are generally soft spoken and tend not to like having leadership positions. Count on them to be extremely intelligent and knowledgeable.

Why he’s an asset: The Guild website is down again and you do not know why. You ask the IT Specialist to take a look. Five minutes later, it turns out you installed the Shoutbox incorrectly. Not only does he fix it, he comes up with a new color scheme for the site that’s more visually appealing, applies a security fix for the forums preventing all those pesky spam posts, and grants membership access to those 40 new members because you forgot how to do it.

You can count on him to help you with Addon installation and configuration.

The Analyst

The Analyst

He spends most of his time reading up on various blogs and sites to learn how to make your raid more optimal. He’s just graduated from college and is in between jobs. He’s got more rings under his eyes than a jewelery store.

Why he’s an asset: Not only does he know how to parse WWS reports, he knows how to read them. After every raid, he will stay up until 3 AM trying to determine how the tank got crushed at the 0:11:46 mark of the Lady Vashj encountered. In other words, he can take numbers from WWS and translate them into something meaningful you can understand. If you can understand the problem, you can fix it.

May get mom aggro once in a while.

The Mom

The Mom

The Mom can instantly sense when something is wrong in the Guild. Her gut feelings are more in tune with the emotions of a player. She knows what to say at the right time. Nothing relieves a tense moment then a calm soothing female voice (that applies in any situation though, really).

Why she’s an asset: She’s able to pry the deepest and darkest thoughts of a player in the Guild. She can silence brushfires with a few tells. She can break the will of even the most devoted gquitter and persuade them to stay one more day. Even though you can’t see it, you can almost see the sad puppy eyes on the screen when she asks you what’s wrong. She’s an excellent sounding board if you need to vent your frustrations because she will actually care.

We love you mom.

The Accountant

The Accountant

He tracks the gains and losses of a Guild in terms of both gold, loot, and manpower. He’s sharp and knows what everything is worth. He can also be known as the IT guy since they are typically good with computers.

Why he’s an asset: He keeps a record of everyones DKP purchase in the past year. He’s able to remember who what what loot when. He makes sure everyone who has attended got the DKP they deserved. Loot will always be accounted for when he is handling it. If there is a discrepancy, he will look into it, fix it, and adjust everyone else’s DKP accordingly.

He also saves you $10 a month on Asprin.

The General

The General

He’s served in the Gulf war. He’s a retired military General. When he barks on vent, everyone listens. He commands the respect of his subordinates and the Guild. He knows when to push his luck and when to cut his losses. He has Murphy’s ultimate law tattooed on his forearm: If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong. He has contingency plan after contingency plan filed in his brain in case things go wrong. In short, he’s your raid leader.

Why he’s an asset: He researches every boss thoroughly. He combs through videos and strategies trying to determine the strengths and weaknesses of bosses. Then he tailors these strats to work with the resources and personnel that your Guild has in order to successfully down that boss. He will do what it takes to get the job done in a timely fashion. If something bad happens, you can bet he’s already thinking of a way to salvage it.

If you want results, he will deliver them.

The Optimist

Optimist

Nothing can bring down the Optimist. He’s always in a good, cheery mood and it helps rub off on everyone. He’s willing to help people any time. He’s a genuinely kind person who has no hidden agenda and has nothing but nice things to say.

Why he’s an asset: He can help the raid stay cheery and positive. When he joins the channel, he makes everyone in it smile. His “can do” attitude helps provide that last spark of energy to down Al’ar on the last attempt when everyone is weary and frustrated.

He doesn’t care about the destination. He cares about the journey.

The Mentor

The Mentor

He’s a walking encyclopedia of information. He loves to patiently teach people how to do things. He wants to relax and take it easy for a while but doesn’t have any problems with providing wise advice.

Why he’s an asset: He’s been everywhere and done every quest. Twice. He knows where every mob is. He’s memorized all the mats required for every enchant and where to get the necessary enchanting mats. He doesn’t need WoWHead because he IS a WoW Head.

It takes 8 seconds to look something up on WoW Head. It takes 1 to ask a question and receive an answer.

The Connected Guy

The Conneceted Guy

Quite frankly, the connected guy is… well connected! He has friends in high places. He has enough contacts to make a drug cartel jealous. He’s got more names and numbers memorized then a phone book. He’s a great people person because he can connect with them easily. Similar to the Mom, he’s able to tell the good crowd from the bad and sweet talk players into helping him out. He could be your recruiting officer.

Why he’s an asset: Your tank didn’t show up. A couple of well placed calls, and he’ll deliver an even better tank because that tank owes him one. He can hook up one of your guys with a Soulfrost enchant AND knock off 20% from their price. He’s established a rapport with top Guilds and fine craftsmen. He can pull in a favor at a moment’s notice and help pull in the elusive 25th man. He can hook you up with a spot in the elusive 400+ resilience PvP group.

Great for recruiting because he knows a friend’s brother’s girlfriend’s moms nephews dad’s son who has an awesome Priest looking for a Guild and happens to be on your same server.

The Brawler

The Brawler

He has your back in a fight. If you need air support in the Outlands, you can expect him to bring the rain. He thrives on PvP. What makes you cringe will make him grin. He is a literal lightning in a bottle and if the opposing faction gives you trouble, he will respond with lethal force in kind.

Why he’s an asset: Opposing faction at the summoning stone? Call up the Brawler and him and his band of cronies will secure the area for you and your raid. Someone giving you hell on an alt? Let him know and he’ll grab a large slurpie and camp the poor guy until you’ve leveled out of the area. He knows everything there is to need to know about PvP.

You do not want to get on his bad side because he is the reason why ESRB added the M rating.

Honorable Mentions

The Altaholic

He works from home managing his own business. He has a wide array of alts to choose from because he can multitask so effectively with his job. He loves the game and has maxed out his character slots.

Why he’s an asset: Need a tank? No problem. Want to gear up a tank? He’ll switch to his Priest. Need high performance DPS? Choose from his Rogue, Mage or Hunter. This jack of all trades can fulfill any purpose you need in a pinch.

The only thing separating him from running a 25 man raid with 25 of his own accounts is because the police tagged his house as a grow ops facility due to his power bill.

The Motormouth

He talks. A lot. He loves to hear his own voice and that of others. He’s also really annoying. But you have to put up with him around because he’s your MT’s younger brother.

Why he’s an asset: There’s no other available MT.

The Loser

He gets confused over everything. He needs his hand held in every dungeon. He accidentally wipes the raid because thought Vashj was friendly.

Why he’s an asset: He’s so loveable because everyone can’t help but feel sorry for him. He also sets an inadvertent example for the rest of the Guild on why they shouldn’t stand in melee range of certain Naga.

Um, guys? These walking fish cleave!

If you can find and earn the loyalty of players like these, you can expect a well streamlined guild equipped to tackle any day to day problems. It’s never a dull moment with diverse players like these around. The best part is that they just do their jobs so naturally without you having to ask. If you put them in positions where they have an opportunity to grow, watch them take advantage of it and slip into their roles with ease.

Do you recognize any of these players in your Guild? Are you one of these players? Do you enjoy having them around? I know my Guild has everyone but the Optimist.